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  MSNBC    NOW With Alex Wagner    News/Business. Alex Wagner.  
   Forces driving the day's stories. New.  

    February 27, 2013
    9:00 - 10:00am PST  

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protections for poor, elderly minority and female americans are all up for debate. it's wednesday, february 27th. this is "now." joining me today, new york magazine's jonathan chat, political analyst and mother jones bureau chief, david corn and new york times columnist, andrew. nearly 50 years after congress passed the voting rights act protecting the right of all americans to cast a ballot, a key provision is at risk of being struck down. they began hearing shelby county
versus holder. article five requires nine southern states and certain districts in seven other states to get federal approval before making changes to the voting laws. there's a bad history of discrimination. the u.s. attorney general must make sure the measures are not designed to keep people from the polls. they argue the provision is obsolete. they should no longer need approval to change the voting laws. racism is no longer an issue. it's the same argument made in 1965 when president lyndon johnson signed the law, people claimed race imwas an injustice. >> there are those that say racism is an old injustice and there's no need to hurry. 95 years have passed since the 15th amendment gave all negroes the right to vote and the time
for waiting is gone. >> why is article five relevant today? remember this past october when federal judges blocked a voter id law in south carolina. the judge, an appointee of george w. bush wrote, one cannot doubt the vital function of section v played here. eric holder compared the laws to a poll tax. still, some form of voter id requirement has passed in 30 states with 11 mandating a photo identification. meanwhile, this past election showed minorities have a harder time casting a ballot. a study showed on average black and hispanic voters waited twice as long as white voters, 20 minutes compared to 12 minutes. it came into act in law after beatings in alabama. they were marching to highlight voter discrimination. it is perhaps ironic that the
law born in alabama is now coming under fire once again back in alabama. nbc justice correspondent, pete williams, is live in front of the supreme court. if you could give us an update, section v may be in danger. >>reporter: part of voting five, the part that says any state covered by the law has to get federal permission before making changes to the law. as long as we are getting technical, section iv which sets out the formula that says which parts of the country are covered by the law. remember the constitutional part of this. it gives it states the decision to run their own elections. what congress said is the states had such a problem, were so discriminatory the federal government should override. the question now is is the problem still serious enough, "a" and does the law cover the
areas where the problem is the most serious? now what several members of the court said today, the most liberal, it may not be perfect, but it's a pretty good fit if you look at where the problems persist. try to attack the voting changes. it's a pretty good fit with the coverage areas now. the conservatives on the court say yes, but the problem is you have areas in the south that do a better job getting black candidates elected. a better job of that than parts in the north. they brought up that massachusetts has a more serious problem with this than ma parts of the south. based on that, what is going to happen? i think it's safe to say there's at least five votes to strike down one or both parts of the act. either the coverage or preclearance totally. let's think about what would happen if that's the case.
if the supreme court says okay, the preclearance is fine in theory, but we are going to throw out the coverage map and send it back to congress, the question is, would congress have the political will to redraw the maps and do what it did in 1965 all over again and sit-down and say okay, let's look at which states are doing a good job and which states are doing a bad job. i can't answer that question. >> let me ask you this question. representative john lewis, who has been long involved in the civil rights movement. he points out the 16 jurisdictions affected by section v rep zen 25% of the nation's population, they still represent more than 80% of the lawsuits proving voter discrimination. did that come up at all today? >> reporter: yes, those statistics were cited. that's the reason it's a close enough fit. let me bring up one other point.
there was something one of the other justices said today that will echo for days to come. it's from justice scalia who is an opponent of the act. he said look at the votes in the senate when this has been renewed. first time, it was contentious. every time since then, most recently, 2006, fewer people voted against it. it was 98-0 last time. why is that, he said. i think it's attributed to the racial entitlement that it's very difficult to get out -- to get away from that in the normal political process. in other words, he's saying you can't trust congress once it gives the voting rights act remedy to ever say that the time has come to take it away. but, i think it's fair to say, and we are already hearing it at the court, the phrase of racial
entitlement is going to be controversial. back to the vote, the two justices that are most critical. we could assume justice scalia was going to oppose it. justice kennedy and justice roberts, everything seemed to be hostile that the coverage formula was the right one to keep. what several of the justices said is the problem with the law, it's reverse engineered. it's back word looking. it can't forward looking enough on where the problems still are. that's why i say i think there are five votes to modify the voting rights act in some way that would be a very serious blow to it. >> thank you to nbcs pete williams. joining us now from new orleans, mark, president and ceo of the national urban league. mark, it is great to have you on the program on such a day like this where we just heard nbc news justice correspondent pete
williams use the phrase, quoting justice on the supreme court, the notion of racial entitlement as a reason to strike down parts of the voting rights act. what is your response to that? >> that's an argument of a political nature, not an argument of a constitutional nature. justice scalia politicking, making political commentary on the court. something he's had a habit of doing. here is an important thing. i am a son of the south. i served as mayor in new orleans. the legislature in louisiana. my father did both, also. the south, if it has changed changed because of the voting rights act. changed because of the civil rights ablgt. if you take the voting act out of the equation, take section v out of the equation, the south could revert back to the dark old days of the past. this could be tragic at this
point in american history, 50 years after the important march on washington, to somehow find what i think are arguments to say that section iv and v are unconstitutional. if a state or jurisdiction feels it has no history of discrimination, it can bail out as have some 70 plus jurisdictions over the past several years. since 1965, the justice department has 1,000 objections. importantly, we saw south carolina, we saw texas we saw states covered by the voting rights act try to take the voting rights of the people of those states back to the dark ages. it would be tragic if the supreme court struck down section iv and v based on arguments of a political nature. this court, this supreme court
should not second guess the congress. the 2006 congress which reaffirmed the voting rights act and had an abundant record of the history of discrimination. an abundant record of why this provision is still needed in 2013. >> mark, i want to open this up to our panel. also joining us is maggie. racial entitlement may be a very -- a dog whistle to some, in other circles the right to vote and right to cast a ballot. a constitutional right to vote. what's shocking is this isn't coming five or ten years ago, but on the heels of an election where voter id laws and a number of measures designed to prevent minorities from showing up and casting a vote. this was a huge subject of debate months ago. for the court to say there's no
problem here, keep on moving or insinuate it's well behind us is not with the times or the national dialogue. >> i agree. it's true, the problem has changed. the nature is not exactly the same as it was in the mid-1960s. congress isn't going to go back and change the law to perfectly fix the problems of today for the reason that there is still a problem. the reason is there is still an intense fight over the right to vote and exercise of the franchise. you can't get a political majority to create the conditions of equality of voting that we need and that the law invisions. that's the reason why striking down the law isn't going to work. >> mark, the stories, the president drew attention to the question of electoral reform in the state of the union address, the lines are longer for minorities than white voters.
12 minutes for the white voter, 20 minutes for the african-american. in shelby county, they redrew they are lines toout montgomery. they canceled elections in 2001. it was the voting rights act that forced the election to take place, they elected their first black mayor. where is the argument that race is no longer an issue in certain parts of the south? >> i hope that the members of the supreme court hear and read the evidence that you just cited. there is no question that section iv and v in the voting rikts is needed more than ever. if one makes the argue there are problems in other states, the logical result is not that it's unconstitutional. jurisdictions could and should be added to the act. i think we have a supreme court
that is a politically activist, has a politically activist base of maybe three, maybe four, maybe five justices who somehow, as they did in, i think the important case of citizens united, want to alter the political landscape in a tragic way. this would be a tragedy for the nation were they to eliminate section v and section iv. i predict it would be this supreme court if it were to do that would go down in history like the supreme court in plecy. the supreme court that reversed the gains made after the civil war. this case has broad ramifications. let me pose this. in those case that is you cited, without section v a state or jurisdiction could eliminate an entire presingt. there's no recourse for the voters to the justice department
under section v. they have to perhaps file a lawsuit, get a lawyer, wait years and years. by that time, they will have been disenfranchised for a number of elections. it's important that everything is moot because section v gave them a tool. >> we have so much more to discuss on this issue. if you could hang with us, after the break, we are going to talk about president obama who voiced his opinion. a bipartisan panel to work on improving the electoral process, plus, the future of section v in congress. that's next on "now." do we have a mower? no. a trimmer? no. we got nothing. we just bought our first house, we're on a budget. we're not ready for spring.
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hour after hour, people stayed in line to support her. because desoline is 200 years old. she put on a sticker that read i voted. >> that was president obama turning the spotlight on voter rights during the state of the union address. he vowed to create a commission including requirements to show voter id. mark, we have you with us. what i see is a very -- i mean, to be honest, the question of the right to vote is on a knife's edge in terms of the national landscape here. we have these laws. 30 states enacted a form of voter id law. if you listen to pete william's
analysis, the court may cut down the act. where does that leave americans in terms of where do we go from here to ensure people have access to ballots come november? >> democracy in voting is the foundation of america. we have fought long battles. the constitution has been amended to give african-americans the right to vote, the give women the right to vote. to give 18-year-olders the right to vote. we have always had an expansion of democracy which has been the trend. this generation of leaders, the court, the president and the congress, it's good to see the president propose a commission to look at this issue and create transparency. i think in america while fighting wars to create democracy overseas, we have to protect democracy here at home and ensure, ensure that every american has a right to vote in an important way.
the more people who participate in our elections the stronger american democracy is. k si agree, mark. i can only imagine the outcry from all corners of this country will be deafening. thank you for your time. >> thanks, alex. >> joining us from capitol hill, keith ellison. it's great to have you on the program. there's much to discussion. >> yes. >> i want to begin with the latest from the supreme court. the thinking that they may strike down parts of the voting rights act and effectively kick it back to congress as a member of congress. we know that in 2006, the house reauthorized the voting rights act 390 to 33 the senate 98-0. it's pretty bipartisan. given the way things are on capitol hill these days, where do you land in terms of optimism and the voting rights act? >> we don't have any choice but to be optimistic and reach out
to people in a bipartisan way and say look, all americans should be able to vote. the vote should be something all americans get and political parties should contend with voters to win them to their side, not eliminate them from the opportunity to vote. i don't want to predict doom and gloom. i want to say the supreme court is going to look at the 15,000 pages congress generated in all the hearings that it had and say look, i guess the democratic body is in the best position to make a decision here. if we end up having to deal with it over here in congress, i'm looking forward to working with republican friends to do the right thing. >> congressman, let me open it up to our panel for a moment. david corn, what is -- there are many disturbing things coming out of the supreme court today. the idea of racial entitlement that we discussed at the beginning of the show is of a piece with a broader narrative
of makers versus takers. they want more than they deserve. >> special treatment. the fact that scalia, when he used the phrase of entitlement, the senate voted 98-0 in favor of renewing the voter rights act a few years ago. what he's saying is these people, these senators, 98 republican and democrat have been so cowed by racial political correctiveness that i, justice scalia have to rush in and do something about it. justice roberts who three decades ago when he was in the reagan administration as a young lawyer, he wrote briefs against the voter rights act. there's a real move here to finally do this while you said earlier, this is really separate from the ongoing discussion we
have had in the last year about what to do about voting. >> go ahead. >> just one question. i'm sorry to play devil's advocate. i would probably expand section v to cover the whole country. the flip side of this is, at what point do you say progress has been made and the world has changed? the world has not changed enough -- hold on. the flip side, the constitutionality, there's gerrymandering going on all over the country. there's problems with voting for minorities in states way beyond these nine. how do you think about that? that's what this is really all about. >> i don't disagree. i think there's something to that. sorry, alex. >> go ahead. i think that as you say, it is going on elsewhere. it's hard, once you start winding things back, we saw it in the election in ohio, for instance.
there was a huge debate over early voting. the romney supporters made a huge push. it was distorted in their case against it to make it sound as if african-american voters were getting something they weren't entitled to. military voters were getting something taken away. the latter was not true. it was the same for everybody with that. i agree with you on one hand, there's a point we say when can we start and when do we look at things differently. >> once you use the phrase racial entitlement, it's a different realm. representative ellison, i want to bring you back in here. politico has a great analysis of what's going on with the supreme court whether it's good or bad for the parties. the courts move more slowly and the key issues that electrified are only in front of the justices. many in the gop are eager to put
them behind them. i don't think sh shlacking is an appropriate term. you have a court that could dismantle a landmark civil rights case in advance of taking up the issue of gay marriage which is not good for the republicans either. >> it's not go to see section v struck down. it resin forces the idea they are not a party of everybody. they are the party for an exclusive few. if you listen to governor jindal, he says expand this thing, not restrict it and limit other people. i want to comment about the folks who say how long is long enough? it's important to remember that the voting rights act has provisions for jurisdictions to get out if they can demonstrate that they should not be in.
but, if any city should stay in, these people are in this court case because they excluded minority voters. it's actually a weird case to be coming forward to talk about getting rid of section v. >> representative, if you can hang with us, we have to take a short break. we are going to talk about congressional high jinx, speaker john boehner is looking to make a legislative splash. is overhauling the tax code the comeback? we'll ask congressman about his ideas when we come back. ♪ alright, let's go. ♪ shimmy, shimmy chocolate. ♪ shimmy, shimmy chocolate. ♪ we, we chocolate cross over. ♪ yeah, we chocolate cross over. ♪ [ male announcer ] introducing fiber one 80 calorie chocolate cereal. ♪ chocolate.
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to show how serious they are about reform, house republicans reserved the hr-1 designation to pursue an overhaul aft of the tax code. if you think there are shreds of bipartisanship, think again. >> i hope we are on the verge of moving tax reform bill to lower rates for all, clean out the loopholes and nonsense that's there. >> the important part, lower rates. at one point, republicans agreed to generate revenue by eliminating the loopholes, that was before the fiscal cliff deal that saw $600 billion in higher tax rates. since then, the message has been unanimous, close the loopholes. >> i'm very much in favor of closing loopholes and i want to take the revenue we generate that way and use it to lower
marginal tax rates to have a stronger economy. >> the argument speaks to the dividing line. can america cut its way to a better place or do we need revenue, too. speaker boehner, mitch mcconnell, harry reid and nancy pelosi meet with the president on friday to talk sequester. congressman ellison, we have you with us. immaterial to ask you with so many things we are dealing with at present, the house republicans kicked it up to the senate. the lower chamber says we have done our work. we are on to tax reform. what do house democrats think of that strategy? >> we are kind of horrified by the idea of already moving to the next thing before we address the sequester. this thing is coming up on friday. my own district, i'll see 23,000 people who no longer have job counseling and placement
services. we'll see cuts to police. we'll see cuts to important programs that people need to have the ladder up into the middle class. they have already started switching the subject. the subject they are switching to is disturbing. it's the same theme. they are going to exacerbate it with this proposal, lowering the rates so the people can have -- so that the rich can take more of the money and pay less of their fair share. it's really kind of disturbing. it's really clear what is at work here. they believe the rich don't have enough money and the rest of us have too much. >> congressman, sometimes i feel like i'm in a strange vacuum that i have access to numbers and data republicans don't have access to. >> they have it. >> we were looking at numbers in 2011. the top .01% made an average of
$23 million, the bottom average $30,000. look at the polling on this. 76% of the country thinks we need to reduce the deficit and have a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. >> right. >> why the digging in of heels? especially when you have republican congressmen who are going to feel pain? >> they are committed to the idea if you give rich people enough money, maybe they will invest in equipment and help the economy. the fact this philosophy failed repeatedly over the course of decades is irrelevant to them. it has the benefit of rewarding rich friends of theirs. i think it's id logical and a practical reality for their donor base and people they are trying to court. >> may i suggest they get new friends and different numbers. thank you for hanging with us.
we appreciate it. >> thank you, alex. >> andrew, let's talk about this fiscal sanity piece here. >> yep. >> what do you make of the republican efforts, hr-1, the first piece of legislation for the new term? tax reform, the likelihood it's going to go anywhere in this congress. >> i don't think it's going to go anywhere. stop the conversation. both sides agree we need tax reform. are we trying to lower the rates or is there a meeting somewhere where we can go in the middle? i think the easiest thing to do is effectively raise the effective tax rate. it's the number people should pay attention to. let them lower it taking out loopholes and take out more revenue. >> what do you do with the revenue? >> to please both sides, i may get in trouble for this, you can use that revenue to pay down debt and i think you would win
with both sides on that issue, as opposed to spending it on social services which still need to be belt with. you are better doing that than whatever revenue for loopholes. >> wait a second. that's the obama position. it's what obama was trying in the grand bargain a year and a half ago. boehner said he would do something but only through closing loopholes, not messing with rates. obama was doing it as a deficit reduction. >> i agree. >> there you are -- >> we are in the same place. i'm in the same place with them. i never said i was in a dichbt place. >> you can have a conversation with the president but you can't have a conversation with john boehner. >> that's why i said this is a non-starter. >> jonathan, you wrote about the republican sequestration plan. the end game here always has been to make sure the wealthy
are paying lower taxes. it has nothing to do with anything else. >> it's been the position since 1990. they were talking tax reform. it's a hand wavy, vague thing without committing themselves to specific plans that left them open to raising revenues to perform. now we are at the point where the rate question is off the table. now we can really zero in on are you willing to close some of these loopholes enjoyed by taxpayers as part of the deficit reduction in return for cutting social security and medicare. it's the deal on the table. they are saying no. no taxes of any form. they don't make a distinction. they want high income taxpayers to pay less tax. >> while still cutting intolerance. >> you could take down the rate, get rid of loopholes and both sides could pretend as if they won. >> it's not really -- in terms of party politics and how it's
working, maggie, it's not great. we have a new wall street journal poll. the republican party thinks they are taking a partisan approach compared to 48% of the democrats. there's got to be an edging toward the middle. >> we keep saying that. we are four months out from this election and seeing a lather, rinse repeat process. over and other and over i thought there would be a curve after the debt ceiling fight. i think the president is taking more of a hit than he did with the fiscal cliff. i think the republican brand is, i think chuck todd's words were free fall. it's hard to argument. >> the president is having a meeting on march 1st to talk about the sequester. i don't know if that wins him points or loses points. at any rate, they are going to 1600 pennsylvania avenue. coming up, a new push.
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since debate began on the renewal of the violence against women act. the 1994 law granted victims of sexual violence and assault what they needed. since the program was first passed, domestic violence rates dropped by 58%. while congress has been fighting this fight for quite awhile now, the saga may finally be coming to an end. the senate bill passed earlier this month extends protection to 30 million women. house republicans have their own version, one that waters down provisions for lgbt, immigrant and native women. at issue is whether to give the tribes it authority they need to protect women against men. it's something the house bill does not address. in a rare act, house republicans announced they will allow a vote on the senate version of the
bill if their version fails to get the votes to move forward. joining us from capitol hill to help figure out what exactly is going on with the republicans, democratic senator from missouri, claire mccaskill. senator mccaskill, it's great to have you on the program. thank you for joining us. >> thank you. that's a high bar if you expect me to figure out what the republicans are doing, especially this week, it's confusing. >> it's an ongoing process, senator. let's talk about the dual bills here. is this a way to offer house republicans some smoke screen, to say they can vote for one version of the bill, but not the icky democratic version to offer more protection to women? >> i think this is john boehner trying to manage a difficult caucus. at the end of the day, the best news of this week is for the majority of women in this country, elections matter. the house republicans let this bill die last year.
they didn't think it was that important. as somebody who is a prosecutor on the front lines when this legislation was passed, i know how many lives it has saved. i am thrilled they have relented and they are in a moment of sanity and pragmatism and public safety, they are going to let the strong bipartisan bill come for a vote. i'm confident it will pass. that will reassure the women in this country what they did made a difference. >> behind enemy lines or inside the halls of congress, there seems to have been serious pushback from republicans on this. look, we can't have all these -- there was a letter sent from 17 republicans in the house. shelly was the author of it saying that we need to extend the protections to women including women on tribal reservations. 80% of sex crimes on reservations were committed by
nonnative men. how would you begin to think they don't need protection under the law? >> i think, once again, the extreme elements in the republican party held the rest of the republicans captive for too long on these issues. i think most americans want protections for victims of domestic violence no matter where they are, no matter what they look like and no matter who they love. i think this is a really important acknowledgement by the republicans that they need to get off the extreme fringe on these issues and join most of us in america that understand the protection of the law in this instance shouldn't be for some in this country, it should be for everyone. >> maggie, we talk about the problems the republicans have coming out of the 2011 election. the female vote is something they haven't given a great amount of thought to. there's a lot of talk about the
hispanic vote and push on immigration. you have candidates like richard and todd akin. here is a no brainer. this is a lay up. the fact there's been so much back and forth,forth. out reach to women that republicans need to get on their side. >> one thing that's amazing to me throughout 2012 and after 2012 is the description of the women vote as if it was a niche vote, we are talking half the population. >> right. >> this has been, i think, a source of ongoing curiosity. i think you are already seeing this being used against perspective 2016 homefuls. it's framed against chris christie, and marco rubio. christie may have helped himself with it yesterday in terms of the medicaid expansion in terms of a proargument. i think it has been a very overlooked piece. republicans say there's a
legitimate reason for them to not go with the violence against women's act. that's subject to discussion. i think it's clear that this is a broad area that has not been figured out that touches on various issues, health care, abortion. it's going to be an ongoing thing. >> senator, i want to ask you about something sort of not unrelated but equally important. the gun control piece and the victory yesterday in illinois. mayor bloomberg poured a lot of money into that race. dianne feinstein is chairing a hearing and you have been involved in the issue. do you feel the tide is turning in terms of resistance to gun safety reform and the fact the nra is raising money and there could be a powerful and vocal answer to that lobby emerging in america? >> first of all, i think the vast majority of gun owners in america do not think like wayne
lapierre and the nra. it's a good thing. i think the other thing that's clear to me is that even though i was raised in a very avid sportsman household where my father was a big hunter and i'm in a state where that is a very important part of our culture, i know the majority of people want us to have background checks on a universal basis. they are working on bipartisan efforts to get a bill ready that can pass. what i'm worried about is somebody will say no to universal background checks. it will be a terrible thing for our country and worse for the republican party. >> thank you to senator claire mccaskill. we'll be sure to ask you more about the republican party. i don't think we figured out exactly what is going on with them quite yet. we appreciate your time. >> thank you. we will have more for you after the break. [ female announcer ] what makes you walk a little taller?
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we just began a long conversation or surely what is a long conversation with senator claire mccaskill. a new poll shows americans worry more about gun violence than losing their jobs, being unable to pay their mortgage or being a victim of a terrorist attack. that surprised me. >> amazing. two of those things are much more likely to happen than gun violenc violence. >> there's really conversation there. >> the only way the democrats and obama can get gun safety measures is keeping intensity up on their side, otherwise it favors the nra. >> mike bloomberg is expected the white house driveway stake out at 2:00 p.m. he's meeting with the vice president. they have together kept this issue alive in a huge way. >> no doubt. we were talking the house race
in illinois. the question now is people are saying this shows that people want congress to act. i don't know that's what it shows. debbie aal halverson is a weak candidate. what bloomberg did is send a signal he's in and going to keep spending. >> for people advocating for broader gun safety, pouring $2 million into an election -- >> not enough. >> it makes people queasy on the level of campaign finance. >> it has to happen soon. we are running out of time. the farther you get away from newtown, the harder it is to get done. >> he's in trouble of finding places. >> it will be an interesting next several weeks, months. thank you all for being here. that's all for now. i'll see you here tomorrow at noon when i'm joined by e.j.,
richard wolffe and josh greene. you can find us at "andrea mitchell reports" is next. here is your business travel forecast. i'm meteorologist bill karins. heavy wet snow and leftover snow from the blizzard in chicago along the lakeshore in michigan. the rest of the country is doing okay travel wise. the southeast is much better. the west coast is dry. enjoy your day. [ male announcer ] how do you make america's favorite recipes?
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